Keystone spill adds to the reasons against expansion

A photo of the pipeline from outside the perimeter where the sign warns of pipes under high pressure. COURTESY OF WWW.POPSCI.COM


Rebuking former President Barack Obama, President Donald Trump reversed his predecessor’s late 2015 decision in March of this year to halt the construction of the fourth phase of the Keystone oil pipeline system commonly referred to as Keystone XL.

Trump’s—admittedly predictable—greenlighting of the pipeline once more drew the ire of environmentalists across the United States who have collectively focused their energy on preventing this pipeline’s construction as well as advocates for Native-American sovereignty.

Despite a spate of protests, Keystone XL’s fate looked more certain than ever before; however, on the 16th, a massive oil spill from one of the existing pipes in South Dakota made it clear that environmentalists’ concerns were far from unfounded and that Keystone was not the state-of-the-art pipeline system that the national and concerned state governments had been led to believe.

Keystone is unsafe

This latest spill—totaling about 210,000 gallons according to CNN—is the third in six years and is the second in South Dakota where 16,800 gallons leaked in 2016. The third release was about equal in volume to the 2016 incident. The clean-up for the smaller spills each took roughly two months; this latest spill will take an astronomically larger amount of time to remedy. The full extent of the recent spill’s damage remains unclear.

As stated in an article published by Reuters on November 27, TransCanada—the company responsible for Keystone—claimed the risk of a release of more than 50 barrels (2,100 gallons) to be “no more than once every seven to 11 years over the entire length of the pipeline.” Comically, a spill was estimated to occur in South Dakota “no more than once every 41 years.”

It is truly baffling how unrealistic these risk assessments were. Spills, some catastrophic, seem to be much more common than anyone was led to believe. Further complicating matters, the oil contained within the pipelines is sourced from Alberta where the so-called “dirty” oil is thick and especially hazardous and difficult to clean up.

New pipeline, same issues

As for the Keystone XL pipeline, it seems insane to go ahead with its construction with the knowledge that TransCanada was either obfuscating the dangers posed by its pipelines or has been grossly misunderstanding those dangers. It is also negligent to public health and safety to continue with the project when a high volume of ground-water exists along its approved route.

Furthermore, as a strictly political concern, Keystone XL would unacceptably infringe upon the land-rights and spiritual concerns of native peoples along its path. The scope of the protests last November over another pipeline near Standing Rock reservation also in South Dakota show that American natives will not stand to have their rights be ignored.

It is not worth it

Any economic benefit the Keystone XL pipeline may bring, it is growing increasingly difficult to reconcile to the immediate damages to civil rights and the environment it is sure to cause.   


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s